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Archives for musings

Goodbye Little Chicken

April 23rd, 2022

Sadly I’ve had to retire my “little chicken” that I’ve been feeding in the Alipay app for the last four years due to a lack of grain. I’ll just put a screenshot here to remember it:

It’s a game of sorts where you collect grain either by buying things with Alipay or “engaging” with the app in some other way, then you feed the grain to the chicken and after a six hour gestation period it will emit an egg. You can then donate your egg to a charitable cause… or something like that. You can also play games with the chicken or dress it up in different outfits, like the stylish purple ski attire mine has. It’s all rather fun. Unfortunately when you don’t feed the chicken for a while it will start to make a nuisance of itself by invading your contacts’ farms and stealing their grain, so I’ve had to put an end to it.

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Evergrande Spring

December 20th, 2021

Perhaps the last chance to sample Evergrande Spring, the mineral water from Evergrande, better known as world’s most indebted property developer. This is the low sodium version, it tasted like normal water.

Diversification is important in business

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Carol Vorderman’s Best Selling Compiler Textbook

September 19th, 2021

Now I’ve heard Amazon has being going downhill recently but…

I love how Carol Vorderman hasn’t aged at all since I watched her on Coutdown after school in the 90s. And how did the “Salter Air Fryer Cookbook” end up on there? The first book seems a solid recommendation though…

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Transferring Money Home From China

September 5th, 2021

If you work in China sooner or later you’re going to want to transfer some of your salary back home. After a few initial failures and now three straight successes I thought I’d document the process here in the hope that it avoids frustration for others.

The main problem is China’s currency controls. You can’t just wire RMB outside the country and have it automatically converted into your home currency like can for say, USD to GBP. You first need to convert RMB to a freely convertible currency inside China, and then wire transfer that money out. That means you need a foreign currency account with your Chinese bank in addition to the normal bank account where you get paid.

Don’t think you can just walk into the bank and do this though. First you need to collect a lot of paperwork. You’ll need:

  • Your bank card.
  • Your passport, and any previous passports if another document references the old passport number.
  • Your work permit.
  • A signed copy of your employment contract.
  • The name, address, SWIFT code, and IBAN of your home bank account.
  • 完税证明, a certificate that shows tax paid (see below).
  • Physical payslips for each month shown on the tax certificate. If you only have electronic payslips you need to print them out and get your company to stamp them.

The tax certificate is most troublesome. To get it you need to visit the local tax office (税务总局) and say you want to 开完税证明 kāiwánshuìzhèngmíng. In Shanghai at least they have a special counter for foreigner tax services. You have to tell them the date range you want the certificate to cover: the certificate needs to show income after tax of at least the amount you want to transfer. It might also be possible to get this online if you have an account on the 个人所得税 app (the one you’re supposed to use for tax returns), although I’ve not done this myself.

At last you can go to the bank. Every bank I’ve been to only handles currency conversion Monday-Friday, and only before 3pm. So I suggest you go in the morning and leave a lot of time. Tell them you want to 换外币 huànwàibì or something to that effect and they’ll give you a ticket. Wait for your turn and then tell them how much you want to exchange and into what currency. Give them all the documents and get ready for a lot more waiting.

As I mentioned earlier the first step is to open a foreign currency account. You can either ask for this explicitly or just act confused and hope they do it for you (worked for me). As part of this they’ll ask you to sign some scary looking legal agreements about money laundering and so on. Whatever, just sign them. You only have to do this the first time.

Then you can actually do the currency exchange. With luck this won’t require much interaction, just wait while they check and photocopy the documentation and finally you’ll have to enter your PIN and sign something to confirm.

They’ll stamp the tax certificate with how much you transferred and the date. Make sure you keep this for your next trip or things will get confusing.

The last step is to wire transfer the money back home. The first time I did this I had to go to a different counter to input my bank’s details. It seems like it’s easy to make a mistake here but I suspect all that matters is the name, SWIFT code, and account number are correct. Subsequent times the account information was saved so I could just do the wire transfer from the bank’s app which was super convenient. The fees are a bit steep though: expect to pay 300 RMB or so plus any fee on the receiving side, so it’s best to only transfer large amounts. Every time I’ve transferred to the UK its arrived on the same day.

Get Vaccinated Win An iPhone

July 25th, 2021

Throughout June and July the Shanghai local government has been trying a new tactic to convince people to take the coronavirus vaccine: bribes. At many vaccination centres you can be entered into a draw to win a phone or receive some other free gift. It’s clearly working as apparently 70% of adults have now been vaccinated. I’ve collected a few examples below that I either saw myself or were shared around on WeChat.

I passed this one on the way to work. The text says “get the coronavirus vaccination here and receive five litres of cooking oil”.

This district is clearly lacking imagination: the sign says “take the vaccine and receive 300 RMB cash after the second injection”.

A sign at Shanghai International Tourism Resort. It says “take the vaccine inside the resort and receive a free entrance ticket”.

This one says if you take the vaccine here, you’ll be entered into a prize draw. The top prize is an iPhone 12 and the second one is a Macbook, although the seventh prize is just some eggs.

This lady won a phone at another location after getting her vaccination. There’s a maximum of one per day but if you don’t win anything you still get five litres of cooking oil.

I Made a Cup

July 17th, 2021

In the interests of team building or something I made a clay cup at some pottery workshop. The results were surprisingly good and said cup is quite usable for drinking water.

The raw materials shaped with my own hands into something resembling a cup.

The painting process. Note the expert colour mixing going on.

The finished article. Note that it has shrunk quite a lot in the baking process.

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Sandwich Recommendation

June 20th, 2021

After several years living abroad with all sorts of strange foreign food, I decided recently that I’d really rather just eat sandwiches for lunch. And finally I’ve found a bakery chain in Shanghai that sells sandwiches worthy of the name (hint: it’s not Family Mart).

The shop in question

It’s called Paris Baguette. But actually they’re not French at all but Korean. Whatever, their sandwiches are excellent, and also the egg tarts.

Exhibit A: three delicious ham rolls

Exhibit B: a delicious tuna sandwich

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The Dust Storm Cometh

March 30th, 2021

From the office it doesn’t look so bad…

Say what you like about British weather, but I’ve never seen “sand, hazardous” before

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